One of the brighter spots of Nintendo's E3 press conference, at least for me, was the promise of Flipnote Studio. I say "promise" because at the time, not much was known, and very little was shown at the keynote. As is standard now, Monday comes with it new WiiWare and DSiWare – but this time with a freebie for the DSi. I don't recall any chatter about Flipnote Studio being free, but you just can't beat that. I would have paid for it; and after using it for a while tonight, would have been happy with that purchase.
In short, you can doodle and create flipbook animations, then share, save, and even upload them to the Web. It even has an onionskin feature to allow you to see previous and next frames in your animation. This really takes me back to my childhood, as I used to make flipbook animations – and yes, I used to make Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck animations. But Flipnote Studio is not just a basic flipbook editor, you can really dig into the features and turn out some solid animations. It is rare that software of this quality is given away for free.
The tools consist of basics such as a pen, paintbrush, and eraser, but turning on Advanced tools gives you access to selection, copy/paste, resize and flip commands. You have eight "nozzles" for the pen and for the paintbrush, giving you plenty of options for textures. For color, you have black, red, and blue, which can be used on a foreground and background layer. Like I said, this app is no slouch. The "undo" command comes in handy too – don't you wish a real pencil had that feature.
Since this is the Nintendo DSi, you can take advantage of the Camera and Sound applications. Import photos and mess with their halftone screen, or set it to trace the outlines, very similar to basic Photoshop filters. Record sound inside Flipnote Studio or import sound effects saved from the DSi Sound application, even layer a sound track with up to three sound effect tracks. Flipnote Studio uses the L trigger as a toggle; many options are hidden, as to not overwhelm you. For example, you import sounds from DSi Sound by holding down L and clicking on one of the sound effect tracks, or in the Frame Edit screen the L trigger gives you fine grain control over each of the two layers per frame.
After completing your masterpiece, worthy of an audience with Walt Disney himself, you can share it with other Nintendo DSi owners, save it to SD memory as either an animated GIF or an image sequence, or upload it for the world to see thanks to the Japanese site Hatena. The Hatena integration is seamless: you create an account right on the DSi (or on a computer of course); upload your animations in seconds; even view and download other user-generated content from around the globe. If the creator has not locked their artwork, you can download and edit, then re-upload your changes. The Hatena Flipnote service is impressive, I especially like the ability to input a command sequence to locate a creator or animation – such as: right L Y X R B Y R right up (using the D-pad and buttons, this brings up an insane Pokemon themed animation).
I am somewhat surprised Flipnote Studio did not ship with the Nintendo DSi, it would have brought with it much more relevance to the Camera and Sound applications. With their powers combined (sorry!) these three apps give artistic DSi owners a lot of canvas to work with. Did I mention Flipnote Studio is free? Give it a shot; you never know what might happen. In the meantime, I am going to work on a full recreation of Super Mario Bros. level 1-1.
Bottom Line: When you are expecting an app with the skimpy features of DSi Sound and DSi Camera, Flipnote Studio is a welcome surprise, filled to the brim with options to spark your creativity.